When you’re playing a skill-based game like Wurm with no classes or “specs”, people look to other ways to define who you are in-game. There are players who specialize in carpentry, blacksmithing, masonry, dyemaking, tailoring, rope-making, digging, cooking, farming – just about any skill that you can level up can be considered your “specialty”. The higher your skill in a certain area, the better items you’ll be able to make (and sell) to other players, and of course that silver can then pay for your deed and premium time, in effect having your gametime pay for itself.
In Wurm, it didn’t take long for me to decide what I wanted to be: a horse breeder. Why? Well, who doesn’t want fields filled with pretty horses on their deed? Horses also have a practical usage: players can ride horses directly, or hitch them to large carts to haul bulk items. Horse breeding is a unique system within Wurm, with some similarities to real life breeding. Let’s take a look at how it works, shall we?
Where it all Starts: Wild Horses
When the Exodus server first opened back in September, players were not allowed to bring over animals from other servers. The only horses on the server were the wild horses that had been spawned automatically. Wild horses are always grey, and they have no traits (more on that in a moment) at all. When you breed two wild horses together, the resulting foal will have random traits assigned to it. It could have really good traits, really bad traits, a mixture of the two, or no traits at all. As aspiring horse breeders arrived in Exodus, they had to catch wild horses to start their herds and begin a long process of breeding and selective culling to build their bloodlines.
Why we Breed: Traits Explained
Taken from the Wurm Wiki, here are all of the horse traits currently in the game, along with confirmed (or in some cases suspected) effects :
- 20 skill: “It will fight fiercely.” (High fighting skill?)
- 21 skill: “It has fleeter movement than normal.” (Minor speed boost)
- 22 skill: “It is a tough bugger.” (Withstands more damage)
- 23 skill: “It has a strong body.” (Improved body strength?)
- 24 skill: “It has lightning movement.” (Randomly increases speed – short duration)
- 25 skill: “It can carry more than average.” (Less penalty to speed due to high load)
- 26 skill: “It has very strong leg muscles.” (Less penalty to speed due to slope)
- 27 skill: “It has keen senses.” (Increased agro range or possibly harder to tame)
- 28 skill: “It has malformed hindlegs.” (Minor speed penalty)*
- 29 skill: “The legs are of different length.” (Major speed penalty)*
- 30 skill: “It seems overly aggressive.” (Goes into frenzy when attacked)*
- 31 skill: “It looks very unmotivated.” (Seldom uses speed boosts)*
- 32 skill: “It is unusually strong willed.” (Randomly refuses to follow)*
- 33 skill: “It has some illness.” (Usually unridable. Penalty to body strength)*
- 34 skill: “It looks constantly hungry.” (is twice as fast hungry again)*
- 39 skill: “It looks feeble and unhealthy.” (Prone to disease)*
- 40 skill: “It looks unusually strong and healthy.” (Has a higher resistance to disease)
- 41 skill: “It has a certain spark in its eyes.” (Unknown at this time)
Obviously like in any other MMO, faster horses are the most desired. Thus horses with the Fleeter + Lightning combo are the baseline that most horse breeders try to hit at first. On top of that, the Strong Legs, Strong Body, and Carry More traits are also highly valued and contribute to a horses speed and utility, so the ultimate goal is getting “5-Speed” horses – they don’t actually have 5 speeds, but they carry all 5 speed traits, and they typically are the most expensive to buy from breeders.
There are a number of neutral traits – Fight Fiercely, Keen Senses, Tough Bugger, Strong & Healthy. Of those, Strong & Healthy is also a great trait to breed for, but not necessary. Some players, particularly those interested in combat, may also want the Fight Fiercely and Tough Bugger traits in their horses, but in general, these traits as a group don’t play a large role in determining a horses value.
Then there are the bad traits, which are almost all the rest that I haven’t mentioned. You can see why… they result in slower horses, horses that will eat your fields faster, horses that are prone to disease, and horses that aren’t ridable at all. If your horse has any of these traits, it’s most likely going to be sent to the glue factory (culled). You don’t want these at all.
In order to see what traits your horses have, you’ll have to examine them. At low levels of Animal Husbandry, you won’t be able to see all the traits, so it’s important to have an experienced breeder check your horses for you to ensure that you’re not passing bad traits along. But as you continue to breed and groom your horses, your skill will level, and at 41 skill, you’ll be able to see them all!
But what about Color?
All wild horses are grey, right? When you breed two wild horses together, you’ll usually get a grey foal – but on occasion, you’ll end up with a black, brown, gold, or white foal. Colors are considered hidden traits – they don’t show up when you examine the horse to determine it’s traits, but they are there nonetheless. Typically a foal will carry on the colors of one of it’s parents, but sometimes you can get random colors. I have a black, 0-trait mare that was bred with the same grey 2-trait horse 4 times, and each of the foals was a different color: black, brown, gold, and white. Weird!
Naming: Why is my horse named Babechaser? Wildwild? Happypot?
Wild horses have no names, and there’s no way to tell two wild horses apart, which is a pain. However foals are always born with a randomly generated name. Sometimes the names are great (Sweetkiss, Babechaser, Walkingfast), other times they are a bit… annoying. Horses cannot be renamed, and while it’s rare, it’s not unheard of for there to be multiple horses with the same name on a server.
Oh, and One more Thing…
If you interbreed your horses, you’re going to start having bad traits work their way back into your lines. You generally do NOT want to breed parents to children, or siblings, or half-siblings. I get around this by assigning horses to set “sweetheart pairs”… that is, they’ll breed with the same partner horse each time. It’s considered a good thing to occasionally swap horses (or stud services!) with a neighbor or buy a fresh horse or two periodically to introduce some freshness into your herd, especially if you only have 2 or 3 pairs of horses anyway.
How I Got Started
When I arrived on Exodus, I had some terraforming and mining to do before I could build my horse pens, so while other more experienced players were out catching as many wild horses as they could to get started, I was still getting set up. I finally caught 8 wild horses, 4 males, 4 females, and started breeding. Any foals that had at least one speed trait and no more than one bad trait, I kept. I got 4 okay females and 4 okay males out of that first generation of breeding, and I matched them up so that their foals had a good chance of having 2 or 3 speed traits. For the second generation, I kept horses that had 2 speed traits, or sometimes one trait if they were female. I’m just wrapping up my third generation of horses, and I’m happy to say that the majority of my new foals have 3 speed traits each. I have 16 foals, or eight pairs, and after matching them all up, the chances are very good that my fourth generation foals will be 4 and 5-speeds! Yay!
My Secret Weapon:
Google Docs. Any spreadsheet program, or heck, even just a pen & paper will work, but you need to have some way to track what horses have what traits and the parentage. This is what my spreadsheet currently looks like (click it for the larger version):
If you’re thinking about advertising your herd on the Wurm forums, a spreadsheet is also a handy thing to have on hand. You can just add a similar screenshot to your advertisement, thus saving you a ton of typing time when you’re setting it up and modifying it.
So that’s Animal Husbandry in a nutshell! If you’re on the Exodus server and are looking for riding horses or even breeding horses for starting your own herd, give me a shout… I should start having some very nice ones soon!